Summer camp. For many teens, those two words evoke all sorts of powerful memories and emotions. As someone who attended and later worked at a few different kinds of summer camps, I too associate summertime with that special otherworld of camp life. Whether it’s an academic summer program on an unfamiliar college campus, an wilderness adventure in the woods, or some other uniquely themed summer-only community experience, camp life often seems to be an escape from teens’ everyday lives.
Camp can be the rare place where you suddenly fit in and find others who share your passions. Camp can be a dependable community where you feel the freedom to be a different–and perhaps more authentic–version of yourself. Camp can also be the time and place when you discover new interests or new aspects of your identity. Like all tightly knit and highly organized communities, camp can also be a place that reinforces certain expectations or ideals, making it a trap rather than an escape. In all cases, summer camp also seems to be one of the best settings for diverse and strong coming of age tales. Just check out a few of the fabulous young adult novels set at summer camp!
The Summer I Wasn’t Me – Jessica Verdi
Lexi will do almost anything to maintain her relationship with her mother, especially since her dad’s recent death. But when she figures out that Lexi’s in love with a girl, her mom plunges even deeper into depression and anxiety. Desperate to preserve her family, Lexi agrees to attend New Horizons, a Christian summer camp that promises to teach her how to fight off her SSA–same sex attraction. Lexi’s determined to change–but she wasn’t counting on meeting Carolyn.
Wildlife – Fiona Wood (2015 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults)
Since her aunt used her as a model in local billboard, Sibylla’s fairly mediocre social life has started to shift in unexpected ways. Suddenly, she’s not entirely sure what to expect from the upcoming wilderness term. Handsome Ben kissed her at a party over the holidays but hasn’t said much since and her longtime best friend Holly seems intensely invested in Sib & Ben’s potential romance. Meanwhile, new girl Lou simply wants to muddle through this strange first term without having to discuss her dead boyfriend or her still crushing grief. But in this unfamiliar environment, relationships of all kinds undergo unforeseen transformations.